Time Bandit

25 June 2016
24 June 2016
18 June 2016
15 June 2016 | Main Strret, Fakarava
13 June 2016
07 June 2016
03 June 2016
31 May 2016
27 May 2016
25 May 2016
24 May 2016
20 May 2016
18 May 2016
12 May 2016 | Hiva Oa, Marquesas
10 May 2016
06 May 2016
04 May 2016

Think Tahiti

25 June 2016
One thing about this cruising life is that, generally speaking, it is more fun and exciting to do than to read about. That's why most blogs are, like this one, simply a diary so that when the aspiring author is old(er) and more decrepit, he or she can relive the experience from the comforts of their favourite armchair, whether that's located in their sun lounge or a vinyl seat in the semi circle of their new Silver Sunsets Retirement Home.

So, how do you make this interesting to the reader when there's actually not that much happening.

A cynics eye view? Not appreciated by my Blog producer. Some drama? Problem is, it seldom happens. Loads of shiny pictures? Our point-and-click skills just don't cut it.

So, I'm going to try "visualisation".

Tahiti. Close your eyes and think, "Tahiti". Keep them closed (but how can I read on you ask. Buggered if I know) Anyway, with your eyes closed perhaps you can picture a long golden beach stretching off into a distant hazy yet deep blue horizon. The mystical island of Bali Hai in the background, simply drop dead gorgeous girls dressed only in grass skirts are doing a hula hula dance, hips gently swaying in time with the palm fronds above, or, for lady readers; tattooed and oiled warriors, muscles rippling while they welcome you with a performance of their war dance.

Got it?

Right. Now open your eyes and yes, that's actually what we had last night. Well, it's what Anne had last night.

It's the annual Tahiti - Moorea Regatta and some seventy boats are gathered for the event coming from all over the oceans to congregate here for the big event of the year. Equal numbers have stayed away having as much desire for a mobbed party where the compulsory attire is to have a flower arrangement around their necks as clearing a blocked toilet while going to windward in twenty knots.

For us through, it's a bit of civilisation after a few months on the empty ocean and the one road and a few shacks island villages.

We are docked in the new Papeete Marina. No longer do yachties have to drop anchor and swim a stern line ashore. There's a fancy new marina with showers, a wifi lounge, water and power. Just a shame it's still 25 yards from four lanes of traffic dashing form one end of town to the other. However, it's nice to be able to step onto a pontoon and walk ashore and go to the shops or to go for a run. Which is what I did day before yesterday. I was quite getting into this new search for fitness when, post run I was doing the stretching thing and, from the intense pain, seem to have squished a disc and plugged the nerves of my lower back into a local 440kva transformer. I can't stand, sit or laugh. Only swallow drugs, mostly legal, drink Drambuie, that's my self determined holistic remedy, and lie down feeling pathetic while the hula dancers carry on without me and the seventy strong fleet sails off over the horizon leaving us here to listen to the sounds of passing traffic.

Consequently, we've not seen much of Tahiti so far. Pretty much just the distance I ran from the boat so, for a few days at least , we'll just have to keep your eyes closed and think, "Tahiti".

Well Hello Ladies

24 June 2016

Recipe for Disaster

18 June 2016
Take 60 primary school kids. Spend six months teaching the wee boys the Fakarava Haaka and the wee girls how to hula. Dress them up with flowers in their hair. Put them on stage an hour before their time and finally, have four local dignitaries make droning, interminable speeches.

Net result, 60 screaming kids charging around, wound up to a high pitch finally totally out of control of their teachers.

Once the oldies had said their piece the kids took their positions, well, most of them and performed. The wee girls were shakin' their booties, swinging and twitching their hips like Shakira on Speed. Meanwhile, the wee boys pretty much dud what they fancied seldom in time to the music and about as coordinated as a male newcomer to my old circuits class warm-up. In fact, some were better!

Such was the end of our few days on Fakarava. A few days lounging around the palm fringed beaches, the wifi bar and, finally, giving my Christmas heart rate monitor its first outing.

A month or so ago in conversation with Dick, one of our cruising buddies I said I'd go for a run with him. Given this was the first road in a while the opportunity was not to be missed, or it would have been if I could have found an honourable excuse.

I should have tried harder. 30c under a blazing tropical sun. A sun that has been firing the concrete road to the temperature of my brother-in-law's Jamie Oliver pizza oven. The locals look on with quizzical possibly stunned looks like we're completely bonkers. "Hey grandad, come quick and look. It's these crazy white folks again, this time running!!" They know there's nowhere to go and no reason to rush.

Anyway, Dick was gentle with me, taking it easy while the little digits on my watch monitor zoomed into the red only to become blurred and unreadable from the sweat lashing from my every pore. It maybe lasted 25 minutes. Each minute at least 6 minutes long and the last ones stretching out even farther than the end of the road that blurred into a sweat blanked mirage.

Dick had to dash so I did the "I'll just do some stretches" thing. The exhausted mans opportunity to gasp some oxygen while appearing is if he's fine. A natural at this running thing. Just as well I did the stretches as without, I probably couldn't have walked yesterday.

Really great news is we meet up with Dick again in Papeete, the capital of Tahiti in a couple of days. Think I'll keep a low profile!

Fakarava was the last of our Tuamotos. We didn't really do them justice but if you're not a diver there's only so much you can do in a one street town, or more accurately, a palm fringed beach. Some cruisers spend weeks in one anchorage just chillin' but I'm afraid the Letton "press on" gene keeps us moving. That and there's no way Anne was getting into shark infested waters. Not without a rocket pack anyway.

Still got 23,000 miles to go. Can't be just hangin' aboot so after a blustery, rainy night which filled the tank we cast off our mooring at 07:00 heading for the 08:00 slack water at the pass. My ass.

We shot out of there at nearly 9 knots charging through standing waves with the echo sounder saying 2.4 where it should have been over ten. Just as well I didn't have my heart rate monitor on.

250 miles to Tahiti. Two nights at sea, one if we can average over seven knots but I already know we will arrive at 2am in the pitch black.

Maybe that's why cruisers spend weeks hanging off their anchors. Maybe they're just putting off the sailing thing!

Not sure why it's a stunning day. Trade winds blowing at 14-20. Monitor wind came flicking back and forward keeping us on course while Anne sleeps and I type nonsense into a phone!


Fakarava

15 June 2016 | Main Strret, Fakarava
"It's very light for 05:30". Except it was 06:15 and we should have been arriving at the pass by then. Leaping out of our pit we up'd anchor, slowly as it had wrapped around a coral head and headed for the pass. (Sounds like a Wild West movie).

Not much drama despite being 90 minutes late but it meant we had to motor flat out fur 6 hours to make the next window through the pass on Fakarava. Again, no drama here. Picked up a mooring bouy so no chain wrapping worries.

Dick from Van Keddesi who we've been with or close to since Galapagos took me fur a run, calling me on a dumb remark u made some weeks ago. Running in 30c for first time in years. Knackered but a serious stretching session after he'd left me wheezing on the dick staved off most of today's pain. That and gin and tonic.

Ashore for usual wifi hit after days offline. Sat here like teenagers in a cafe no conversation, just tapping away booking flights for Christmas, erring weather downloads and trying to solve electrical problems with our wind indicator.

Dinner on Villomee last night. Really putting us on the spot for the return visit. Any suggestions on how to disguise M&S mince and beans as gourmet food much appreciated.

Kauehi

13 June 2016
Five days off a palm fringed, coral sand beach, 200 yards from the wild Pacific has been a stunning backdrop for our stay on the atoll of Kauehi. The wind has been blowing 20 - 30 knots outside where there's a two to three metres breaking swell running. This swell breaks over the windward reef which we're sheltering behind, runs across the top of the atoll and floods into the lagoon. In the last two days there's been a new beach created just behind us from the sand that';s been washed through. The job for this morning is to extricate the anchor chain which over the last few windy days has snaked around a few coral heads and re-anchor in this fresh sand so we can get away on time tomorrow. We've read the local best practice is to string a number of fenders along the length of the chain to hold it off these rock columns. In fact, if they were columns that would be fine. Problem is they're all knobbles, protuberances and undercuts. Some boats in our group have had to hire divers to unravel the mess. Gives you something to do!

That and getting up the mast to try and getting a reading from the wind indicator.

We had a BBQ and camp fire on the beach with Trevor and Jan from Villomee the other night watching the flames flicker on the water and the hermit crabs bustle about eating bits of coconut. It's been a bit rainy the last few days so we've put a few litres in the tank so we're good for a few more showers.

Fresh coconuts off the trees makes a refreshing drink and snack. The atoll village of Tearavero is a one street (with speed bumps) town. The 300 or so villagers make a living from growing and harvesting coconuts, opening them up, drying the flesh and selling the "copra" to the French government......for a set price. Other than the odd passing cruiser and a few tourists that might fly in for a look and maybe a kite surf, that's the only source of income. Still for some, that seems to be enough to fund a Renault Clio so they can take a run on the few miles of road there are.

We leave here tomorrow as the times and tide are right for our next hop to Fakarava a regular metropolis with some cafes and even wifi.

Fakarava has two passes (the chips in the rim) and one is apparently excellent for drift snorkeling. One paddles up-tide in ones dinghy, gets over the side and hangs on. The current pulls bodies and dinghy through the pass floating over the "coral garden" below.....and the sharks. Anne might skip that trip.

You Gotta See This

07 June 2016
A year or three ago my old pal Peter Wright met me in Bosun's at Largs Marina. "You gotta see this" says Peter, hauling out his Smart Phone which alone was quite impressive for a man of his years. Not quite the silver surfer but getting there!

A couple of fumbles later, pretending he knew what he was doing he logged into YouTube and up popped a video of one of the Volvo Ocean Race yachts screaming along somewhere in the Pacific on a close reach, in the dark, at 14 knots. Suddenly, you can see the crew feeling something is not quite right. They all are on their feet, peering into the pitch blackness straining above the sounds of the boat to work out what it is they're sensing. Then the crunch comes. What they'd sensed was the sound of breaking waves on the reef they just piled up on. The one their navigator hadn't seen on their zoomed out chart plotter. Pretty soon they are all up to their waists in water, liferaft launched only to be helicoptered off a day or so later leaving the boat to grind itself to pieces.

As previous Blog, much like the couple that did the same thing a few miles from here week before last. And the couple before them and, allegedly, the five other yachts now reef wrecks, all in the last eight weeks. Consequently our sail down here to "The Dangerous Archipelago" wasn't the relaxed passage we might have hoped for. Charts littered the saloon table along with plotters and pencils as we checked and double checked where we were and what lay ahead. Every untoward sound and we were on our feet checking things like a pair of nervous ninnies. Doing the trip on moonless nights didn't help. It was black as pitch but good winds and 500 miles in 4 days. In the end we had to out on the brakes, slowing towards the end as we approached the pass, the "chip" in the surrounding reefs on and into the atoll named Kauehi. Now, over the years we've squeezed Time Bandit into a few tight spaces. The inner loch on Jura's West Loch Tarbert, rock hopping in Norway and the aptly named Small Harbour (thanks John!) in Maine. However, the difference between these adventures and here is that if you screw it up there's no lifeboat. Just you and your insurance company. And the French Government, the environmentalists and the locals and passing impoverished cruisers who will strip your boat clean in an afternoon. To rub salt in the wound, you will probably get a spot in the global news somewhere and someone like Peter will grab you in a café and say, "You gotta see this".

Good news is, despite going into the washing machine that was the pass, we made it through in a few heart stopping moments. 20 metres, 3 metres; 4.5m; 3m; 5m; 4m�...�....and phew, finally 12m while all around breaking and standing crashing waves boiled and swirled all around. Eight miles across the old crater and we pitched up at the village of Tearavero. We haven't been ashore yet so woffle on that in next posting.

Today, its boat chores as it's cool�.....and a wee bit grey with the prospect of rain which we really need as the odd shower would be nice. Or so our friends tell us.

Storm in a Teacup

03 June 2016
Nuku Hiva and its mountainous charms are now well behind us. About 200 miles behind having left at the crack of 07:00 yesterday bound for the Tuamotos aka "The Dangerous Archipelago".

If you were to take a teacup and submerge it in a basin with just the rim showing, that's what makes an atoll in the Tuamotos. Add a small chip on the edge, maybe two, and you have a typical lagoon. Made up from the remnants of volcanoes, one sails through the "chip" in the rim, into the old crater. The challenges are many. First, the atoll rims only protrude above the ocean by a few feet, maybe 12 at the highest. This makes them difficult to see in the daylight. At night, it's sighting by radar and GPS mapped onto charts that Captain Cook himself might have prepared and radar only works if there's a swell AND you can identify the difference between a signal for breaking waves and the normal clutter.

Second, like your teacup, a wave or two in the basin will flood over the rim of your cup. In the atolls, the swell pours over the windward edges and, with no way out other than the "chips" in the edge, standing waves, whirpools and pretty much what sounds like tide races to put Pladda to shame occur pretty much all day. Only at slack water, for maybe a good 8 minutes according to the pilot books is their an opportunity to get in our out safely.

Lastly, once in, "bommies" await. These are large diameter coral heads that reach up from the depths to either give your keel a bruising or, if anchored, to wrap and snare your chain. (I'm beginning to wonder why we're going, this is not an exaggeration). Most anchorages are in 20 meters or more so if you get wrapped up, its going to be fun getting free. However, loads of boats do it, including the 7 this year that have ended up on the surrounding reefs, so it must be worth it.

Tune back in to find out.

Niku Heave-Ho

31 May 2016
Nearly time to head out. Just need some wind. The last boat to leave motored for three days before finding some light airs. According to the GRIBs we can either leave in hee haw wind or wait a few days, leave with a breeze but arrive in no wind. Decisions decisions. Biggest issue is it's rather nice here.

Next stop is the Tuamotos aka "The Dangerous Arxhpelago". No less than seven yachts have hit the reefs either transiting the poorly charted area or getting the timing wrong going through the passes into the atolls and getting washed onto the reef.

sounds interesting.
Vessel Name: Time Bandit
Vessel Make/Model: Island Packet 45
Hailing Port: Largs, Scotland
Crew: Anne and Stuart Letton
About: ex dinghy and keelboat racers now tooled up with an ocean going boat and cruising around aimlessly, destination Nirvana...
Extra: 2016 Transited Panama Canal early February '16 bound for Galapagos (March), Marquesas, Pacific Islands and New Zealand for November '16
Home Page: http://www.sailblogs.com/member/directory_timebandit
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